Currently, all states allow injured workers to be compensated for some form of “mental” injuries (such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD), as long as there’s a corresponding physical injury. Far fewer states allow workers to file a workers’ compensation claim solely for PTSD or another “mental-only” injury.
This issue has gained more attention in recent years and months, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic that is putting tremendous emotional and psychological strain on our first responders and healthcare workers.
Recently, the team at Gerber & Holder Law researched which U.S. states currently allow some form of compensation for work-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We published our findings in a comprehensive report where we took a look at each state’s workers’ compensation laws when it comes to “mental/mental,” “mental-only” or “psychological” injuries such as PTSD.
Unfortunately, psychological symptoms without bodily injury are not compensable under Georgia workers’ compensation law.
To further highlight this important issue that affects so many injured workers across the country, we sponsored a scholarship essay contest for college students by asking the following prompt questions:
SHOULD ALL STATES OFFER WORKERS’ COMP BENEFITS FOR PTSD-ONLY CLAIMS, WITHOUT A PHYSICAL INJURY? WHY OR WHY NOT? WHAT MIGHT THE RAMIFICATIONS BE?
We had the difficult task of selecting just 1 winner out of the 80 essays submitted, but we also wanted to highlight the many great responses we received. Ultimately, a vast majority of students who participated in our essay contest believed that workers’ compensation should cover PTSD-only injury claims without a physical injury. Only a few withheld support, citing the potential negative ramifications to businesses, jobs and the economy.
Continue reading to see some responses from our student respondents, in their own words, starting with the students who were for offering workers’ comp for PTSD-only claims.
Essay question: Should all states offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims, without a physical injury? Why or why not? What might the ramifications be?
STUDENTS THAT SUPPORT PTSD-ONLY WORKERS’ COMP BENEFITS
Polina Prokhoda from Medical College of Wisconsin (scholarship winner):
“One might argue that the ramifications of PTSD-only compensation will be having to allow for workers compensation for other mental illnesses, such as depression that came about after a nurse started their job in the oncology unit, for example. However, because depression does not require a specific trigger event like PTSD, this argument likely would not hold up in court.”
“Having workers compensation for PTSD will make workers feel more confident that their company will help them through it, should they develop PTSD, and this confidence will make people more willing to go into high-risk jobs.
Furthermore, allowing for workers compensation for mental-only PTSD will bring forward open discussions of mental illness, helping us move toward a better understanding of mental illness and improved mental health in our society.”
Lael A. from Western Governors University:
“This topic is meaningful to me in so many ways, as my older brother is an ER Nurse and I also have several close friends that are police officers. These workers are on the front lines and risk their lives daily to help protect, treat, and comfort people that need assistance. If these employees are unable to seek therapy for PTSD they will likely get worse and it could cause them to become depressed, have anxiety, become suicidal, or turn to alcohol and drugs. Therapy and medication are available to help treat patients with PTSD. I feel this is something that should be available to workers that suffer from PTSD due to the devastation they see regularly while at work.”
Cameron V. from University of Pittsburgh:
“In some cases, I think employee PTSD benefits should be paid out, regardless of physical injury if there is strong and convincing evidence of a pattern due to the ramifications of what could happen otherwise. I think it could be positive in setting the tone that an employer wants to protect employees from harm such as harassment, racial discrimination, or threats of any kind.”
Charlise M. from University of Arizona:
“All states should offer workers comp benefits for PTSD-only claims without a physical injury. This is something that many people need, because often the mental injury and mental complications affect humans worse than physical injuries. We can cure physical injuries, but most often not mental complications.”
Jonathon S. from University of Arizona:
“All states should offer workers’ compensation for PTSD-only claims. When one witnesses or experiences a horrible event they can develop PTSD, a mental condition that drastically decreases their quality of life. When these traumatic events occur at the workplace, an employee should be eligible for workers’ compensations.”
“If a worker is exposed to an event on the job that causes them to develop PTSD, then it is only right to give them fair compensation. While money will not make an employee instantly better, it can make their recovery process easier.”
Anahi V. from Texas Tech University:
“…I think it is time we include psychological injuries that lack physical injuries in workers compensation laws with at least one stipulation. The medical world is already at a point where human brains can be imaged and cognitive responses measured in a way that can make psychological injury diagnoses reliable. And our abilities in this realm are only increasing. One stipulation with this would be that the worker reports any work related incident to the company within a given time period; say 10 days. This requirement along with the medical testing abilities would mitigate malingering.”
Sondos M. from University of Houston:
“All states should offer workers compensation benefits for PTSD claims regardless of their physical state. Mental health is just as important as physical health. If physical injuries can receive compensation on their own, then so should mental ones.
Support is essential for recovery and the state has a moral responsibility to provide that compensation and support when the employee develops PTSD as a result of an injury or accident at the workplace. A foreseeable concern with giving workers’ PTSD comp benefits is that employers will argue that the PTSD was caused by an outside factor and not the workplace accident. With qualified professionals, the state should be able to determine what caused the PTSD and offer compensation accordingly. If PTSD caused by a workplace accident has the ability to ruin a worker’s life, then the least workers can get are compensation benefits in the tragic event of an accident.”
Katrina V. from University of Pittsburgh School of Law:
“All workers should have a right to be protected equally under the law. This sentiment was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the recent Bostock v. Clayton County case which determined that employees are protected from discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. The protection should also apply to workers that have PTSD as a result of a workplace incident.”
“Employers must be held responsible for the mental and physical health and safety of their employees. Allowing workers to collect benefits for PTSD would hold employers accountable and lessen the burden on other types of benefits that workers may collect when they are unable to work due to PTSD.”
Alex Y. from University of Pittsburgh:
“Overall, the perks of having the benefit of the doubt be towards the worker making the claim [outweighs] allowing the workers to suffer with their disorder. The simple answer is yes, states should offer workers comp for PTSD claims.”
Zoey Y. from University of Pittsburgh:
All states should offer employee’s worker’s compensation for PTSD-only claims, without a physical injury. Mostly because of how it can damage someone’s work performance and because of who it will benefit.. Our ER doctors and nurses, first responders, firefighters, and even the police force are all at risk of PTSD. These workers do so much for their community and the fact they are not always supported by the employer’s that put them in those situations to begin with is wrong. The change in having all states provide worker’s comp for PTSD-only cases are for those who keep our country safe.”
Abby A. from Kennesaw State University:
“I believe all states should offer workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD-only claims without a physical injury because trauma comes in many different forms, and the impacts can be astronomical… Our police, firefighters, paramedics and emergency room workers are particularly vulnerable and often avoid treatment due to the stigma associated with PTSD.
By allowing workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD-only claims without a physical injury, employers will see faster rehabilitation due to employees having the time and resources to heal. This will translate to increased productivity and a better work environment.”
“Mental health is a serious issue facing our country and necessitates additional support to help those with PTSD. All states should address this inequity.”
Wendy E. from East Tennessee State University:
“As someone who has suffered from mental health and as someone who is going into psychology, I agree that all states should offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims. Just like taking a bad fall or a cut, mental health can wreak havoc on your body just like any physical injury.”
Kayla M. from Central Michigan University:
“I believe workers’ comp should be offered in all states for post traumatic stress disorder, even without a physical injury. I also, however, believe that the person should have to prove that they have post traumatic stress disorder. They should have to go see a therapist for an evaluation and have written proof from a professional that they have post traumatic stress disorder… I also believe that anyone that does lie and gets caught should be on a list if there is not one already.”
Gavin B. from Purdue University:
“Offering workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims would give people who suffer from this disease the ability to take more time off of work to deal with these issues and give them resources so that when they return, they are ready and able to work efficiently.
Extending PTSD-only claims to all states would allow these people to be covered. Some people may feel that since PTSD and other mental health illnesses are not visible, it will leave them open to abuse. Mental illnesses are not laziness or weakness, but conditions that doctors and therapists can diagnose and treat. Just like with any workers’ comp claim, employees will need to gain a proper diagnosis from a medical professional.”
Hannah H. from University of Colorado (Denver):
“An employee with a physical injury would be offered coverage, and the same should be true for those whose illnesses are mental. When workers are afforded help, they can perform to their highest potential, which provides the greatest benefit to all involved. Ultimately, it is in the best interest of all states to offer workers’ comp benefits to those who suffer from PTSD, even in the absence of a physical injury.”
Isabella V. from West Coast University (Ontario):
“Most definitely workers should be offered compensation benefits for PTSD for claims without physical injury. That would be like saying those with fibromyalgia don’t qualify for benefits because you can’t see their injury, yet they are living with the pain. Although PTSD is an invisible disease to others, for the people living with PTSD they are reliving the pain with the same traumatic experience daily.
Ramifications for offering compensation benefits for PTSD may be people taking advantage and claiming PTSD for the benefits. But can’t the same be said for all other benefits programs? This is why certain criteria must be met including a diagnosis from a licensed provider.”
Aly D. from Duke University:
“Potential ramifications from expanding coverage to include PTSD-only claims is that workers’ compensation doctors might hesitate to diagnose a worker with PTSD because they may try to minimize insurance costs for the employer. Studies show that failure to receive treatment for PTSD results in increased accidents on the job, development of a secondary disorder, job loss, and higher cost of training replacement workers. Employers might ignore these long-term consequences of failing to treat and diagnose PTSD and think only of the immediate costs of treatment. Additionally, PTSD symptoms do not arise instantly, they may take months or years to occur. Treatment for workers may be delayed as litigation settles whether the PTSD is connected to workplace trauma or stress.
Regardless of the potential ramifications all states should cover PTSD-only claims in the interest of equity.”
Claudia W. from West Coast University:
“Only allowing workers’ comp benefits for those who have a physical injury associated with their PTSD is naive because not every account of PTSD can be or is associated with noticeable physical signs.
There are those who would abuse workers’ comp benefits by claiming they are suffering from PTSD with no associated physical injury, when they aren’t. This is dangerous because should this become a common occurrence, companies would be much less inclined to offer the benefits without the physical injury present, if at all. This would be crippling for its workers who rely on the workers’ comp benefits while they are truly suffering from their PTSD.
The ultimate solution would be to reallocate company funding from increasing CEO and administrative salaries – who already make a staggering yearly amount – to services like having in-company mental health services or providing better healthcare benefits so workers are able to access their own mental health services for formal diagnoses.”
Jason F. from University of Pittsburgh:
“Trauma is not any less real if it does not bear any physical damage. For this reason, all states should allow workers to receive compensation benefits for mental injuries, even if they have not suffered a corresponding physical injury. Only providing benefits when there is physical injury implicitly endorses the idea that mental illness is not legitimate, and that missing work is only acceptable when you are physically incapable of being there. It also may encourage workers who suffer from conditions such as PTSD from harming themselves in order to meet the eligibility requirements for workers’ compensation.
Withholding benefits from workers who suffer mental injury reinforces the idea that their pain is not real. It is reflective of a culture that does not take the mentally ill seriously.
An excellent way to change our country’s culture surrounding mental health would be to change our laws to better accommodate those with psychological conditions. Mandating that states offer workers’ compensation for PTSD-only claims without accompanying physical injuries would be an important step in this process.”
Mason F. from University of Pittsburgh:
“Given my understanding of the diagnoses through work experience and personal experience, I believe that it is fair that all states should allow workers’ compensation coverage for veterans who are struggling to provide for their families. Also, a fair exception is that they are covered strictly through mental health facilities if there is no physical injury. This way, emergency room wait time is not occupied by folks who need to be taken directly to a behavioral health care facility.”
Trudie E. from University of Cincinnati:
“The more recognition mental health receives, the more society can grow and flourish. I do believe that PTSD-only claims, without a physical injury should offer workers’ comp benefits. PTSD, among other mental health needs to be recognized in order to normalize and make people understand that they are valued and beneficial.
A possible ramification is that people could take advantage of the programs. A way to combat this is to make sure that people are going to a certified mental health provider and being able to prove that they are actually affected.”
Thomas M. from University of Houston:
“When we do not allow benefits for someone struggling on the inside, we are not diligent about the whole person.”
“In my opinion, we must prioritize the mental and emotional well-being of employees across the board. PTSD is a severe illness that millions of Americans face every day. It is our duty as employers to support and aid in that recovery process.”
Grace L. from Occidental College:
“If workers’ compensation programs are to fulfill their original purpose, states should offer worker comp benefits for PTSD-only claims… In ensuring that individuals with occupational PTSD can get the treatment they need, employers and society can benefit from better levels of work productivity… Not only will this be beneficial to society in the long run, but it will also show appreciation for workers who regularly risk their mental health through exposure to traumatic circumstances.”
Tina T. from University of Illinois at Chicago:
“…all states should offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims, without a physical injury because by creating accountability checkpoints this will ensure that any ramifications could be resolved. For example, those suffering from PTSD will get aid to be able to grow and get better, while employers can also hold their employees accountable to prevent corruption.”
Taylor O. from Samuel Merritt University:
“All states should offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims, without a physical injury. Mental health is a part of overall health and should not be viewed separately. It is important for people to take care of their mental health and well-being. I think a key misperception people tend to have about pain is that it is a result of a physical injury to the body. The amount of tissue damage does not directly correlate to the amount of pain an individual may be experiencing.”
Daniel C. from University of California, Santa Barbara:
“As of now, injured workers [in many states] can only be compensated for mental injuries if they are also suffering from a corresponding physical injury. All states should change this situation and offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims, without a physical injury.
…in order to prove the validity of PTSD-only claims, these workers that filed the claim should be forced to speak with at least two experienced psychologists who can diagnose the worker with PTSD if they truly believe they have it. This will limit the amount of false claims as most people will not be willing to go through all this effort if the claim is false and the psychologists can see for themselves if the claim is credible.”
Ramadhani H. from University of Houston:
“I think it is time for all states here in America to have a wakeup call and be united as we are so these victims can be able to receive these compensations without having to go through difficulties when they have already faced some tough situations in their lives.”
Zachary S. from Purdue University:
“In my opinion workers should be compensated for their PTSD whether they suffered from a physical injury or not… Granting worker’s comp for those who suffer from PTSD but only had a physical injury is unfair to those who have this disease but did not have a physical injury. This absence of inclusiveness shows a lack of sympathy towards those who have PTSD and tells them that they have not been through enough trauma to be granted compensation.”
Elizabeth D. from Northern Kentucky University:
“This is a very tricky question and situation. As mentioned above, mental health has a lot of negativity surrounding it, and while PTSD is a valid mental health issue, proving that someone has PTSD is hard. Proving that a person has PTSD related to a specific work incident would be even harder. However, if the employee can provide documentation that they have been diagnosed by a therapist or licensed clinical social worker, this shouldn’t be any different than a physical injury.
Since it is so hard to prove, there would most likely be an increase in false worker’s compensation claims, which would increase cost for employers, since the worker would have to go to a therapist or licensed clinical social worker in order to get diagnosed with PTSD. However, a provision could be added where an employee would have to pay for the visit themselves, and then be reimbursed for it if the claim is validated.”
Kierra O. from Barry University:
“…individuals who do suffer from PTSD should be able to have worker’s compensation even if their injury is not physical. While we cannot see when the brain is injured or experiences, trauma does not mean that the individual is not suffering. They deserve just as much compensation as someone whose disabilities are visible.”
Nathan C. from University of Arizona:
“The common practice of recognizing psychological injuries only in tandem with their physical counterparts is irrational and unfounded as psychiatrists universally recognize that these psychological injuries are not contingent upon physical ones.”
“It seems, then instead of making a distinction between physical and psychological injuries, the distinction should be compensable or not compensable based upon their severity. This would legitimize the seriousness of psychological trauma and allow assistance and fairness to those suffering.”
Adriana L. from University of Utah:
“Not taking responsibility for the damage done to others, whether that damage is physical or psychological, is irresponsible and unjust behavior.
Possible ramifications of including PTSD in workers’ compensation include high insurance premiums. Skeptical insurers might think a person is exaggerating their symptoms or think the person developed the symptoms from trauma developed in their personal lives… Guaranteeing coverage of a PTSD-only diagnosis in workers’ compensation benefits in all states would curtails insurance company profits. We can expect that they will fight back against PTSD claims.”
Ella P. from University of Georgia:
“All states should offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims, without a physical injury, because workers can be exposed to a variety of situations that result in PTSD without sustaining physical injuries… As with any type of insurance, there is always the possibility of fraudulent or inflated claims. Employers will bear increased premium costs for this additional line of coverage. Ultimately, consumers may pay higher prices for goods and services as companies pass these costs on to their customers. Despite these ramifications, the benefits far outweigh the costs. You cannot put a value on human life, mental wellness, or overall health. PTSD can result in suicide, homelessness, abuse, and other negative outcomes that society cannot ignore.”
Abdel M. from University of Arizona:
“Although I agree that the PTSD-only claims should receive worker’s compensation, it does open up the possibility of false claims. With a physical injury, it is hard to deny the extent to which the worker is hurt. With mental illness, the extent to which a person suffers is solely determined by that person’s expression of what they endure mentally. A worker may receive a doctoral diagnosis for PTSD but there is also room for error and misdiagnosis. This is not to say that people who suffer or possibly suffer from PTSD are not honest, but because of the nature of mental illnesses, there is room for fraud. However, it would be wrong to deny the workers who actually need the assistance based on the idea that some workers may manipulate the system.”
“If both mental and physical injuries affect one’s performance, then they should both be covered in worker’s compensation. State’s should give worker’s compensation for PTSD-only claims because mental injuries are real, serious, and should not be ignored.”
Joshua V. from University of Pittsburgh:
“In my view, all states should be required to provide workers with compensation benefits for PTSD only claims, even if no physical injury is claimed. The emotional and mental damage that often comes with injuries is just as bad as any bodily injury that any worker could experience, and so both forms of injury should be treated equally when compensation is considered.”
Macias M. from Life Pacific University:
“States should expand their worker’s compensation benefits coverage to allow work related PTSD to be covered without physical injury. This would allow employers to provide comprehensive care to employees who have experienced a traumatic event by providing financial support, time off of work, and care for mental health issues. By doing so we are demonstrating that we value employees and their mental well-being, and understand the difficult challenges that we face as Americans in the present time.
Of course, any system can be abused and that is why processes and procedures must be put in place. It can be difficult to determine which claims are valid but if patient records are thoroughly vetted and only select physicians are allowed to diagnose work-related PTSD without injury then we can limit the number of fraudulent cases and ensure a fair and honest system. An independent state review committee made up of leading physicians in the field of PTSD should also be created to provide their expert opinion. With these checks and balances in place, there should be no reason to exclude PTSD without injury as a covered workers’ compensation benefit.”
Jordan M. from Western Governors University:
“All states should offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims, without a physical injury, because PTSD can easily be as damaging as any physical injury, both to an employee’s inwork performance, and out-of-work consequences.”
Colin B. from University of Pittsburgh:
“I firmly believe that PTSD-only claims should be enough to qualify for workers’ comp without a physical injury to accompany it in all states. As science and technology improve many experts in the health field have found that mental health is just as important as physical health. They have even been able to show that mental health can affect physical health in some situations.”
Alex P. from Boston University:
“In my opinion, all states should allow workers’ compensation for all Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) claims, without a basis of physical injury involved… If one were to meet the standards of criterion for diagnosis under the assessment of a mental health professional, it can go virtually unquestioned that they do in fact have this disorder.”
Lisa N. from University of Arizona James E. Rogers Law School:
“All states should offer workers’ compensation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It does not matter if one is physically injured because the ramifications of PTSD are just as bad if not worse than some physical injuries. The symptoms associated with PTSD may make it difficult to obtain gainful employment for some. The compensation granted would help the employee find a new field of work through vocational rehab, pay for mental health expenses, and help pay housing and other necessities. The affected employee could then navigate their trauma, begin to heal, and eventually gain employment again to become functional members of society.
Before standards are changed for PTSD compensation, the system needs to be made more efficient. If the workers’ compensation system is already overwhelmed like it is in New York, adding new criteria could make the issue worse. While compensation should be given to those who get PTSD without a physical injury, the claims system needs to be updated and improved before any more claims are added.”
Madalyn B. from University of Houston:
“Just as an employee would need proof from a doctor that shows their physical injury in order to receive monetary compensation, mental injuries should require this as well, although they should not require a physical injury to receive this compensation with money.
Money and time off are provided already for physical injuries, and mental injuries can be just as damaging, or even worse. Even after a person has healed physically, their mental health may stay scarred and damaged.”
Christopher A. from University of Cincinnati:
“All states should offer worker’s compensation benefits for PTSD-only claims, with or without a physical injury.
A person can develop PTSD without an accompanying physical injury. I know this because it happened to me. I spent years in law enforcement, eventually becoming a detective. I eventually moved into child sex crimes where I become a digital forensics expert and a court-deemed subject matter expert in child pornography. I spent hundreds of hours investigating and examining horrific sexual exploitations of minor children. During this time, I did not even notice the effects it was having on me.
Even though I had not experienced a physical injury, I had sustained literally thousands of traumatic exposures to violent, sadistic, horrific crime scenes, child interviews, images, videos, and stories that caused more stress and anxiety than I think a physical injury may incur. I became depressed, I became extremely anxious and hypervigilant. When my family noticed that I could not tolerate a child crying in a grocery store, or several other actions later deemed to be PTSD triggers, they forced me to seek assistance.
Eleven years of continued, repeated exposure with no tools to process, express, or heal the trauma. I have no physical injuries as a result of my job, but I have mental and emotional damage in excess, bearing witness to more than any person should ever see. My family suffers from my heartfelt duty to my job. Neither agency offered any assistance, counselling, or therapy in regards to my PTSD.
PTSD can occur and be as debilitating, if not more, than a physical injury.”
Carolyn C. from Marquette University:
“‘If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck’… Whether mental or physical, a serious accident that causes unproductivity as a result of an occurrence at work during an employee’s shift should be compensated for. “
Christopher V. from City College of San Francisco:
“If the programs or benefits are genuinely directed towards these kinds of people, being diagnosed by an expert should be enough to award these people the benefits that they need. If this kind of unfathomable qualification will continue, people without physical injury who suffer PTSD equally as those with observable injury will persist to struggle on their own without the help of getting better and so, the torment will just continue and truly it will be a living hell for them. Yes, benefits should be inclusive to all people with PTSD. Physical illness doesn’t define PTSD and that’s why it will be balderdash to provide benefits to people suffering with PTSD only when they have unconcealed impairment.”
Alexandria N. from University of Georgia:
“I believe that all states should offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims, without a physical injury. Just because a person does not have a physical injury or illness that you can see, doesn’t mean that their injury does not affect them. A mental injury can affect a person just as much if not more than a physical injury.”
Nika G. from University of Minnesota:
“Providing workers’ compensation benefits for first responders with mental injuries would be in the best interest of the working individual as well as their community… Not providing workers’ compensation for individuals with PTSD would be irresponsible on behalf of the state because it puts the community’s and the working individual’s safety at risk…Providing worker’s compensation for PTSD-only claims will demonstrate that the health and safety of first responders and their community are taken seriously and valued.”
Anders J. from Brigham Young University:
“There is a great need of assistance for those suffering with PTSD. Many of these people may have symptoms of the illness manifest in physical injury while others seem to suffer in silence. Allowing people suffering with PTSD-only claims to receive workers’ compensation could be the financial aid required to allow these people to properly recover from their illnesses and become contributing members of society. This social assistance can be a potential way to better society as we know it.”
Yolany B. from University of Houston:
“Most workers do not have the resources or training that can diminish the probability of getting PTSD, therefore it is essential for the states’ government to implement regulations on companies to provide sufficient information as to what mental disease can do to a person’s life. I am a strong believer in the idea that ignorance is our deadly weapon. If our workers, people that keep the economy running, are not aware of the setbacks a mental conflict can cause, then what makes us think that companies or states want to build a better future for the next generation?”
Precious W. from University of Houston:
“In my honest opinion, all states should offer workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD-only claims, without a physical injury… With all states offering workers’ compensation, they aren’t just helping in the event of harm while working, but they are reassuring their employees of the care an employer can provide. This compensation allows for workers to get the help they need in order to return to optimal health for their jobs. Individuals with PTSD are unable to work just as their physically injured counterparts can’t. This allows employers to give their employees the time and aid they need to possibly get medications, treatments, or even psychotherapy.”
Lisa R. from Samuel Merritt University:
“Workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims without a physical injury should be offered in all states because like other physical injuries PTSD is a diagnosable disorder. PTSD may not be physically seen like a broken bone, there still is a break, but it is an invisible break of the mind.”
“Like a physical injury, PTSD also needs therapy to heal and to restore an individual to be a successful worker and member of society.”
Tyler P. from Georgetown University School of Medicine:
“I believe that there are situations where PTSD claims, without physical injury, could merit workers’ compensation (WC) benefits, and people in those niche situations should be allowed WC… I believe if one were to argue that someone accrued mental damages in the workplace, and that led to the diagnosis of PTSD, and if that person were unable to work because of that diagnosis, then they could qualify for WC. If not, they should be able to gain some sort of protection under the ADA or some other law.
I believe people should work for what they earn, but they should also be treated like human beings. If I were an employer, I would want some periodic assurance from a healthcare provider, almost like a Doctor’s note for being sick, that the PTSD is crippling to the person’s ability to work. In that way, I would have confidence that that particular person is not cheating the system, and the employee is still protected with WC.”
Rachael R. from University of Nebraska, Omaha:
“I am a social worker in a residential treatment setting for individuals with co-occurring severe and persistent mental illness and substance use disorders. I understand first hand what mental illness looks like and how it can affect an individual’s life. I have also left a job where I was bullied by supervisors. I can understand how workplace incidents, even bullying and harassment, can cause long-term damage to one’s mental health. With this being said and knowing I am led by my heart, I believe states should cover workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD claims regardless of the absence of a physical injury.”
Angelina G. from University of Hawaii:
“Despite the issues, changing the law to allow individuals to be viable for compensation for PTSD without having any physical injury is far more beneficial in the long term. Mental health is important and needs to be taken into consideration, especially for civilians, nurses, EMTs and doctors that were deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Heather V. from University of Arizona:
“Making the argument that employees should only receive workers’ compensation benefits in the case of PTSD with a physical injury leaves vulnerable populations unprotected in the workplace, as so many hate crimes and cases of harassment are not accompanied by a corresponding physical injury, but do result in substantial psychological trauma which can be enough to cause PTSD in some cases, particularly when early interventions are not utilized to help the individual cope with the traumatic event.
It would be perfectly reasonable for an employer to request a note from a psychologist or psychiatrist stating that the individual in question is suffering from PTSD or other similar mental illness due to an incident that occurred in the workplace, and therefore qualifies for the predetermined workers’ compensation benefits. This would ensure that an employee making a claim was suffering from a legitimate mental illness, and not trying to cheat the system.”
Shriya K. from University of Pittsburgh:
“Since it can fairly be argued that some people would take advantage of these benefits, there should be guidelines or criteria to test the severity of PTSD in workers, without the association of physical injuries, and offer them compensation benefits accordingly.
Everyone deserves equal opportunities in a working environment and unexpected or unfortunate situations shouldn’t limit them from being able to be as productive as everyone else. Therefore, states should offer workers comp benefits for PTSD-only claims.”
Cheyanne N. from University of Pittsburgh:
“All states should offer workers’ comp benefits for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)-only claims, without a physical injury… If workers’ comp benefits are awarded to those with PTSD resulting from a concurrent physical injury, then they should also be awarded to those who experience emotionally distressing events in the workplace.
Providing compensation for mental health resources can have an overall positive effect on employee attitudes and well-being, productivity, health care and disability costs, and even the reputation of the company. These bills are important for reducing the stigma around seeking treatment for mental health issues and they provide a platform to do so.”
Kayla W. from Western Michigan University:
“Because of the rigorousness of the diagnosing process, I believe that states should offer workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD-only claims, without a physical injury, if the incident that incited the PTSD happened on the job… Even in the absence of a physical injury, the brain can experience traumatic symptoms that are just as great, the only difference is that emotional trauma is not a scar that can be seen on the outside.
Overall, I think that receiving these benefits will result in an emotionally healthier workforce because employees will know that if a traumatic event happens on the job they will be protected, whether or not they receive a physical injury from said event.”
Rachael C. from Western Governors University:
“All states need to offer workers’ comp for PTSD-only claims without a physical injury.
Despite the risks…the need is too great for mental health care for people who work in high-risk fields. Americans work hard for the companies they serve and the communities they assist, particularly during this pandemic. We owe it to our citizens to ensure that any injury, physical or mental, will be covered by workers’ comp!”
Bao T. from University of Houston:
“All states should offer workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD claims, [but] only if the PTSD is work-related. Before individuals try to collect worker’s comp for non-physical injuries, employers should have them professionally diagnosed for PTSD.
All states should also require certain rules and requirements for eligibility to such claims, such as the working conditions causing PTSD must be objectively stressful. The evidence must also support a finding that the worker is under extreme stress caused by a specific workplace, not from outside sources. Lastly, the objective evidence of such claims must be supported by a professional medical opinion.”
Lauren L. from Georgia Institute of Technology:
“All states should offer worker’s compensation benefits for mental injuries such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder…The requirement for there to be a corresponding physical injury shows a lack of understanding surrounding mental health related issues in the legal system.”
Melissa F. from West Coast University:
“Personally, I believe that states should offer workers comp benefits without physical injury as we do not know what battles the person is battling mentally due to a traumatic event they went through in life. For instance, a vet who served in Afghanistan, who suffers from PTSD due to severe trauma he/she went through but does not show physical injuries, deserves these benefits. They might not be an amputee or had suffered from an explosion, but they did suffer traumatic events that make it hard for him/her to enjoy daily life.”
Mark J. from Louisiana State University:
“I do believe the state should offer workers’ compensation benefits for those who suffer from PTSD with no physical injuries, as those who undergo such traumatic experiences deserve pay for the emotional and mental damage caused.
I believe that regardless of physical damages, the substantial amount of evidence seen when traumatic events occur warrants availability for PTSD-only workers’ comp claims. With recognition of the severity of an incident and how it could affect witnesses, people should not be expected to always return to the place in which they were traumatized or witnessed disturbing events. As long as claims are reviewed with situational analysis while looking at the facts known regarding the incident, payment to unaffected individuals will be mitigated and those who endure traumatic experiences while at their workplace can be compensated fairly.”
Amy S. from College of Southern Nevada:
“I think all states should offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims without a physical injury as well. If a traumatic incident happened with or without injury at or on a workplace and it is causing PTSD it needs to be covered by workers’ comp benefits, because it is a work related incident.”
Eleni B. from University of Pittsburgh:
“Although we cannot visually see a mental injury like we can see a physical one, it is still important to identify and treat them because, if left untreated, they can perpetuate other long-term problems such as chronic pain and autoimmune diseases.”
“If we begin to treat mental injuries with the same respect as we do physical injuries, then we will begin to see less stigma around discussions of mental health.”
“All states should offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims, even without a physical injury, in order to show support for peoples’ well-being, help decrease the stigma surrounding mental health, and to increase the chance of productivity and success in the workplace.”
Peter C. from Seattle Pacific University:
“Allowing employees to file workers compensation claims for PTSD in the absence of a physical injury would allow employees to receive the vital care that would allow them to do their job more effectively. It would also encourage organizations working with first responders to focus energy on preventing the manifestation of PTSD with increased training on psychological resilience, and encouraging more peer to peer support. Everybody wins when first responders are psychologically healthy, organizations become more efficient, individuals find more fulfillment, and the public is safer. Making changes to workers compensation to allow for first responders to file PTSD only claims will help to create a healthier society.”
Breanna H. from A.T. Still University:
“I believe that states should offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims without a physical injury… I believe it is borderline discriminatory to only provide PTSD claims when there is a physical injury; it is equivalent to saying one can only receive workers’ comp benefits if they broke their leg AND their arm in the accident, not just if they broke their leg. Both physical injuries and mental illnesses can arise from work place accidents, so why treat one differently than the other?”
Haley D. from University of Pittsburgh:
“In my opinion, all states should offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims without a physical injury because of the effects that mental illness have on the lives of those affected by it, and PTSD is generally caused by a traumatic experience.
Having the financial support from each state to aid them in treatment would be beneficial to them, and states would have to determine ways to determine who is being honest about their mental illness and ways to make sure that these funds are being used to support the worker’s family and get treatment to aid them in healing from the trauma.”
Tandie G. from University of Colorado, Denver:
“Workers experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, should not have to prove a corresponding physical injury in order to receive compensation in any state. As someone who suffers from PTSD, it would be rather ridiculous if my doctor insisted I could not be diagnosed as such unless I was physically harmed… Needing a mental and physical injury in order to be compensated is just another way for corporations and businesses to keep their pockets fat and their employees oppressed.”
Darianna S. from High Point University:
“Should all states offer workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD only claims, without physical injuries? I think they should… Without proper diagnosis, the country could experience an expensive consequence of fraud… But with what I know personally, to err on the side of caution and decency would be the better call, and the higher road.”
Prince O. from Southern Oregon University:
“…an injured worker should get compensation benefits for a psychiatric disorder experienced or witnessed as a traumatic event with or without the presence of a physical injury… There may be a spike in fraudulent accounts or lesser motivated workers might take advantage of the loop holes not accounted for. On a positive note, there should be opportunities presented for more motivated workers such as an increase in job opportunities with more responsibilities and more compensation for well deserved workers, or specified duties that leads to expansion and development.”
Allyxis F. from Howard University:
“All states should offer workers’ comp benefits for PTSD-only claims even without physical injury because mental health can be just as detrimental as physical injuries. Mental health has the ability to debilitate your body to the point where you can no longer get out of bed or have the desire to do anything. Specifically with PTSD, there are many triggers that can cause an employee to lash out or breakdown altogether. Disclosing these triggers are important for both the employee and employer but requires a form of vulnerability for the worker. Trusting your employer enough to disclose such information secures a form of trust that the employer should respect.”
“PTSD related claims are of the utmost importance because they recognize that health can be affected even without the affiliation with a physical injury. Also, this helps destigmatize the illness of PTSD and helps to disaffiliate it with solely war time veterans.”
Rebekah G. from University of Georgia:
“I believe that all states should offer worker’s comp benefits for PTSD-only claims even if there is no physical injury… I believe that all states should take into account the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual definition for posttraumatic stress disorder and understand that not all traumatic events that cause post traumatic stress disorder occur with physical trauma.
One of the main ramifications would be people trying to make false claims… One way to combat this is to require a diagnosis by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a counselor. They have extensive training on how to diagnose and treat psychological disorders whereas most physicians only have very brief and generalized training. Another way to help prevent fraudulent claims would be to require people with non-physical traumatic induced posttraumatic stress disorder to participate in therapies like exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy.”
Kalei G. from Sinclair Community College:
“I think that all states should offer workers PTSD (mental illness) compensation without physical injury as proof. Proving to have a mental illness is already hard enough; add in a company’s or states specific restrictions and you obtain a whole different demon. Most often than not, there are no physical injuries to prove your mental handicap. This can be a big problem given the restriction many states and companies have in order to give you compensation benefits…”
McKenzie G. from Nightingale College:
“I believe that there are many injuries that can happen to the brain alone that are just as serious as physical injuries because they can lead to just as debilitating problems.
Getting help for PTSD should not be a question as to whether or not it should be covered through workman’s comp. It can be just as serious as any physical injury, and sometimes, even more serious. I believe that workman’s comp should cover all mental injuries without question. By doing this, people can get the help that they need and not worry about their job, or even their life.”
Mei K. from Purdue University:
“States should offer workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD-only claims even without a physical injury. It may not be affordable for all, but some form of compensation should be made available. This applies especially for frontline workers or first responders who are susceptible to burnout and work-related PTSD.
As a society, we should be appreciative of frontline workers and first responders. What is more important than making sure that they get the support needed? While this may be costly or expensive, it would save money long-term from having to train new healthcare professionals to replace those who quit or are unable to continue being a frontline worker.”
Briana M. from Seattle Pacific University:
“I strongly believe that individuals who suffer solely from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD should be offered workers compensation benefits. As a trauma informed and resilience focused educator in Washington State, I have extensively studied the effects of trauma on the body and brain. The survivors of trauma who live out their lives with PTSD are just as much disabled as an individual with a physical injury.”
“I believe that all businesses should strive to promote a culture in their workplace that values equity. Equity means that resources are distributed to those in need. In an equitable work environment, those with mental health disorders will be provided adequate and appropriate resources just as one with a physical disability would.”
STUDENTS AGAINST PTSD-ONLY WORKERS’ COMP BENEFITS
Briley O. from Seattle Pacific University:
“Businesses and corporations would lose lots of money from dishonest mental injury claims. This would greatly hurt our nation’s employment opportunities and be the biggest ramification. Believing every individual that claims they have a mental injury could cause great detriment to corporate America. Not only would dishonest claims take benefits away from employees with truthful injuries, but also could lead to financial difficulty. Unemployment and store closing would be the greatest ramifications if employees are allowed to claim mental injury without physical injury accompanying it.
If it were up to me, I would not offer workers’ compensation benefits for mental injury claims alone. Compensating every individual that claims mental injury is not the solution. My sympathy and compassion for those dealing with mental injuries is exceedingly high. However, the system would be taken advantage of by too many employees.”
Jibril S. from Kennesaw State University:
“…at this time I believe we, as a country, are not ready to put a mandate on all employers. I believe the ramifications, until consistency across all states is achieved, would cause undue burdens.
One ramification would be the extra money businesses would have to budget and payout for the insurance premiums and the expenses of proving/disproving PTSD through medical evaluation. Although I believe most people are good and honest, I think there would be many fraudulent claims. This, in itself, could cause an explosion in legal cases possibly overwhelming the court systems and taking away or delaying services of worker’s compensation attorneys for those true cases. A much bigger ramification, in my mind, is these fraudulent claims would minimize the condition so there is less tolerance and compassion for those truly afflicted.
Until there are consistent laws across the states, the diagnosis and treatments are agreed upon across the states, and solutions on preventing an outbreak of fraudulent cases and possible excessive costs to employers, I don’t think this can happen.”
Jessica A. from Creighton University School of Law:
“I do not think all states should offer worker’s compensation benefits for PTSD-only claims without any physical injury. Previous undiagnosed trauma will be difficult to distinguish, and it will be unfair to the employer to benefit anyone who starts experiencing trigger symptoms. Additionally, the biggest issue would be what constitutes a ‘mental’ injury. Would the approach be subjective or objective?”
“I do not think allowing PTSD claims without any physical injuries to be part of workers’ comp benefits is appropriate due to ambiguity, lack of certainty, and differences in perspective.”
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